• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

The power of youth voice

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Global events in the recent past has largely highlighted the power of the youth in shaping governance within the political landscape of many countries and indeed regions. The phenomena later known as the Arab spring brought this fact to life for many global citizens. The youths had embraced the power of the social media and played this advantage to create a formidable momentum that produced results that was synonymous with their angst for inclusive change.

This September produced more than an Indian summer for the British Isles; in fact the tapestry of British governance would have been left in tatters if a majority of the Scots kinsmen had won the referendum to divorce from a…union from their southern English cousins. Once again, it appears the first time 16-17 year old youth voters played a significant role in the referendum results.

The British conundrum did present itself as a malaise of sorts with one group championing independence for Scotland but abandoning a framework for its national currency and other important financial issues until a later date, simply put it prioritised its immediate plans. On the other hand, ‘’The Better Together’’ campaign heralded by the global ambassador for education had continuously sought that it was better to maintain the status quo than embark on an risky and less travelled path. Simply put those that voted for Scotland’s independence were the economic brave hearts that as ancestors of Adam Smith still had risk reward DNA running through their veins. To buttress this argument, Rwanda has emerged from its own conundrum a better and more governable place and even though it is not a parallel situation I am positive Scotland would have discovered the will and drive to re-invent itself.

Perhaps what is at stake is that we have a political class all over the world that would prefer to maintain the status quo than innovate improved and workable arrangements of governance. We increasingly spend fortunes to innovate in diverse sectors such as healthcare, bio pharma, defence, technology, etc but, suddenly or rather abruptly we choose to stifle innovation in governance. This brings to light the current standoff in Hong Kong, yet again demonstrating the power of the youth.

It is evident that the youth voice is evolving as they grow in numbers and begin to use mechanisms such as social media to mobilise and voice their consensus – which is largely “you can rule over us but you must address our needs”. The youth are a sizeable chunk of the population and therefore governments around the world must stop playing lip service to their needs by creating intervention funds and programmes that are unable to address all socio-economic challenges that the youth face. The youth have increasingly managed to articulate their needs in a concise and consistent fashion, it is blunt and very direct and often carried out in what seem like a laissez faire manner.

Instead of dialogue and focusing on what is being said we often find political class embroiled in the noise effect such as during the Tottenham riots of London in 2012. We hope that Hong Kong will result into a win-win situation for both the youth and the political class and or government. The Hong Kong youth movement must certainly be applauded for such a well behaved demonstration if such words can be used: perhaps had this strategy been used in London, a more inclusive resolution would have been achieved.

In the midst of all the chatter, something is evident: the world is quietly producing youth leaders who are more focused, strategic and resourceful in actualising their goals. The youth have begun to understand the game of the political class, though the same does not seem to hold true vice versa. Malala is celebrated (albeit in few circles) because she champions girls rights and she fought for these rights she believes in a non confrontational manner; would she still be celebrated had she challenged the school curriculum or had she been championing the rights of disenfranchised youths from a troubled enclave in the world financial capital? We must stop to ponder here and then answer this question sincerely to forge in the right direction. At the very least the democracy that we all are ever so eager to export and or import must seek inclusion in governance. As a famous Nigerian writer put it “there are many different sides to one story”; these sides in my opinion are all equal and the rule of law serves only as a framework for equal hearing and not merely to punish those who may have a different stance or choose to fight for their rights in an unconventional manner.

In summary, the onus lies squarely with the government and the political class to devise methods and create real opportunities of engagement and dialogue with the youths and the consensus of such dialogues must be readily and actively pursued. Each of us (the youth inclusive) must embrace the realisation that the youth are not just tactical (perhaps in the Arab spring the momentum overtook the planning and strategy of what outcomes and transitions plans were to be adopted) but like the 17 year old they are developing strategy and increasingly becoming a force to reckon with and must not be ignored.

Like every story, the lessons in life to be learnt at home are many but ruminate on this one carefully: Nigeria’s 60 percent youth population is a ticking time bomb!

ANI C. BASSEY-EYO